TAS & HOM Campaign to protect Middlesbrough’s Heritage




Teesside Archaeological Society and Hands on Middlesbrough have been working hard to raise awareness about heritage at risk in Middlesbrough.

The Urban Park proposed at Middlehaven is on the site of what was once Middlesbrough Pottery. Middlesbrough Pottery Company was founded in 1834 and produced until 1857. This pre-dates the more famous Linthorpe Art Pottery which was launched in 1879.

After considerable lobbying by TAS members, Middlesbrough council has agreed to a watching brief, with an archaeologist present at the Urban Park site.

Hands on Middlesbrough recently requested an FOI for information about the land to the North of Acklam Hall (the site of a medieval moat medieval manor and possible priests house) when work was carried out in breach of planning conditions and without an archaeologist present.


Work was stopped, but we have yet to discover how the council plans to enforce protection of the historic environment. Middlesbrough Borough Council opted out of using Tees Archaeology to screen planning applications in 2009 so it is essential they put a programme in place to ensure the Historic environment Record for Middlesbrough is being updated and heritage is protected.


HANDS ON MIDDLESBROUGH Heritage & Green Space Local List


Hands on Middlesbrough is compiling a list of places and spaces important to the community.

Any built structure with historical and cultural significance or green space (including woodland) used by the community can be added to a Heritage and Green Space Local List which will be presented to the council. The current Local list identifies 91 buildings or sites:

  •  buildings and sites of architectural quality;
  •  buildings and sites of historic interest; and,
  •  buildings and sites having townscape value and/or group value


The buildings or sites identified by the Heritage & Green Space Local List which meet this criteria will be presented to the council with the possibility that they may be added to the council local list.

Hands on Middlesbrough will apply to English Heritage for registration and investigation of any council owned heritage sites deemed worthy of Listed Status by the public.

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Green Space will be presented to MBC as a record of the spaces used by communities and that the public want protecting for future generations. That is not to say they will be protected but by compiling a list it identifies green space important to local people.

Any Grade II Listed Building identified as At Risk will be photographed by Hands on Middlesbrough and their use and condition recorded. This information will be provided to English Heritage so that they are aware of our heritage at risk.

Old Town Hall

Please email handsonmiddlesbroughfuture@gmail.com with any photographs or recommendations of spaces or places you would like to protect or join our Facebook group.

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Teesside Gazette “12 Cherished Places in Middlesbrough Campaigners Say Need Protecting”

Reopen Nature's World: Apple Picking Charity Event at Nature's World

On Saturday 27th September, Hands on Middlesbrough hosted an apple picking event in the heritage orchards of Nature’s World. Hundreds of apples were picked by Teesside Homeless Action Group and the public, to be used by the charity but some could be kept for apple crumbles, pies and cider!

Children walked around with big smiles on their faces, abandoned playgrounds now overgrown and for the first time since its closure in 2013, children’s laughter could be heard at Nature’s World. Over 50 people turned out to show they care and many more signed a petition to re-open it.


Some had come to visit memorial trees which had been purchased for loved ones, which since the closure they had not been able to access.

It was emotional event and most people wondered how it could have been left with no future plan to re-open it. The main concern for the public is that it will be sold to build more executive homes which very few people can afford. If this was to happen (although no plans have been put forward yet) we would lose one of Middlesbrough’s finest assets.

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Instead, we could show how much it means to us and Middlesbrough Council could use it to promote its Beacon Status for tackling climate change, and show that it is dedicated to promoting green issues and sustainable living.

With enough community support, I think we could really turn things around for Nature’s World. It is Middlesbrough’s Secret Garden, people have forgotten about it but if the council  could re-open the land once a month (to start with) for volunteers to help maintain it and host children’s events this would give time to figure out how to raise the money to save it. Why just leave it to fall into further disrepair?

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The residents of Middlesbrough (and the surrounding boroughs) do not want the risk of it being sold for housing development and so we need to show how much we care and we realise its potential.

Good to see all those beautiful apples going to a good cause, to be given to the homeless in Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland.


Please sign our petition to re-open Nature’s World

Look for our Facebook Page: Love Nature’s World

Gazette Article “Apple Pickers Support Fight to Reopen Middlesbrough’s Nature’s World”

An Interview with artist Máire McSorley

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In July & August 2013, two of Máire’s pieces were included in the Python Arts Festival exhibition at The Python Gallery. Her work is also hung on the walls of cafés including Relish Café on Redcar High Street. The exhibition ‘Colours of Teesside’ at the Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet in January of this year attracted nearly 100 people to the Preview evening, one of the largest gatherings at the gallery.

Her Current exhibition ‘Ahead – Art in Digital Media’ was previewed at The Python Gallery on 29th August 2014. A perfect setting to look at the impressionistic and occasionally abstract images of Middlesbrough.

Outside the light was fading and the vivid blue of the transporter bridge was a familiar and comforting sight. Reflected in the window of the Python Gallery, framed like one of the art works I was about to preview.

The transporter bridge, a desolate beauty in a once vibrant and industrial landscape.

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When viewing Máire’s work I felt the vibrancy and energy of a Middlesbrough built on iron and steel. Her art work is confident and celebrates the beauty of our remaining industrial landscape through her use of colour and light.

Máire’s current exhibition ‘Ahead – Art in Digital Media’, is at at the Python Gallery and the exhibition runs until 17th October. Don’t miss it.


Where you were born?

I was born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland, emigrating to North Ormesby in the late 1950s as a child.

Where you studied?

I was at Teesside University in the late seventies studying Public Administration & Business Studies. My daughter Siobhán was a baby at the time and one of the first children in the newly opened University crèche (which we had a sit-in to establish!) Studying Public Administration gave me a great understanding of how government works at local & national level and how it could be used to improve people’s lives. I also qualified as a Political Agent & Election Organiser in the late seventies. In the eighties whilst my day job was organiser at Middlesbrough Law Centre, I did a post-graduate Management qualification, also at Teesside University.

What made you want to become a councillor? 

I would like to see a just & fair society where those who are vulnerable because of age, ill health or difference are supported and enabled by those who are more fortunate. I think the state at local & national level has an important role to play in this and so for me, becoming politically active in Middlesbrough as well as Regionally was a positive way to work towards that. My involvement in politics was a way of life from the age of 13 or 14 when I began to help my father in local residents association campaigns in Thorntree. I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists as soon as I was eligible – at age 16 or 17 and spent much of my spare time organising & campaigning. I was helping run local & general election campaigns at the age of 19.

Standing for election as a Councillor was a natural progression for me in working to achieve a better way of life for people in Middlesbrough. I worked probably 60 or 70 hours a week as a Councillor & a Political Agent from the age of 20 for about eight years. Both jobs were unpaid apart from a £14 a day maximum if one of my daily tasks was a council meeting. I was the second youngest Councillor ever elected in Middlesbrough on May 3rd 1979 when I was 22. (The youngest was my colleague Steve Gibson who was elected at the same time at the age of 21).

As an extension of my political beliefs I then helped set-up the town’s Law Centre providing free legal advice for those who couldn’t afford to pay solicitors. I was employed in organisational, developmental & management roles in Law Centres or Citizens Advice Bureaux in Middlesbrough & Oxford for the next 30 years.

Tell me a bit about what you miss about living in Middlesbrough?

I miss spending time with members of my family & friends who still live in Middlesbrough. I miss being able to jump in my car and be at the coast or on the moors in half an hour. Oxford is right in the centre of the country so a day trip to the coast isn’t really possible. And of course I miss the heart-warming familiarity of the area’s iconic views and structures.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I have made images & visual art regularly throughout my life – from the age of about 10, using a variety of media including pen & ink, watercolour & acrylic paint, charcoal & chalk and photography. I find the process of making art to be inspirational in itself as well as a meditation & often a refuge or therapy. I have a passion for strong & vibrant colour and aim to show hidden beauty in unexpected places. Many of the pieces I exhibited in my Colours of Teesside exhibition at the beginning of 2014 at The Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet reflect this. My recent abstract work currently on show at The Python is much more abstract & emotionally expressive and thus more personal. I find two things about my art fulfilling, the process of making it and communicating it successfully with the viewer. Studying other artists has also been inspirational and a significant influence on my work and on how my style has developed. The French Impressionists and Post Impressionists particularly Cezanne, Van Gogh & The Fauves; street photographers Robert Doisneau & Vivian Maier and Abstract artists Mondrian, Klee, Matisse amongst others.

Can you tell me how you use Digital Media to create your artwork?

Artists have been experimenting since the 1970’s with how computers could help create and present their work, and digital technologies are accepted as the new medium. My work sits within one branch of the New Media art movement. For the past 15 years or so I have incorporated digital tools; a camera, scanner & basic paint programmes into my art toolbox to create a traditional form of art – mounted and framed, and hanging on a wall. Having painted and been a very keen photographer throughout my life I now put the two together. When I use digital tools, I paint with pixels of colour instead of paint, use a mouse instead of a brush, a screen instead of a canvas and I use photographs as a resource rather like a sketchbook.

Do you think your work as a councillor has influenced the work you do as an artist?

I think my work as a councillor like my work in the legal advice sector both reflect what I want to achieve with my life – to improve quality of life for others through communicating and understanding others’ experiences. Art for me is a primary form for communicating emotion and experience.

Do you have a particular heritage site or space in Middlesbrough that has special significance to you?

Many, yes. All of which most Middlesbrough ex-pats would share! But I would single out the Dorman Long Tower, which is part of the Coke Ovens at Grangetown. My father, mother & myself were economic migrants from Ireland in the late fifties and my Dad’s job was building the Coke Ovens and then working there. My husband Robin and most male members of my family were/are steelworkers and my great great grandmother who also emigrated from Ireland around 1880 was one of the first residents of Grangetown.

I also love Albert Park – particularly the Linthorpe Road gate end, having visited every week as a child and lived close by in Clairville in 1970s & 80s. It is there (near Brian Clough’s statue) that we sited my father’s memorial bench in 2011. Dad was the first Irish Mayor of Middlesbrough in 1986/7. I also like Exchange Place. A tragedy the old Exchange building and so much of that lovely old Victorian part of town was demolished for the A66 all those years ago.

Having lived in a two-up two-down Middlesbrough street house for 8 years on my arrival in England and another 8 years immediately after my marriage, I be-moan the loss of so much of the old housing around Gresham.

Do you think it is important to protect our heritage and if so, how do you think we could do this?

Oh definitely, by raising awareness of what might be our heritage and thus enabling people to connect with their antecedents lives through writing, telling stories, making pictures & videos. All of these things also preserve our heritage. In this way there is more of a chance of people developing a sense of ownership of their own past, learning from it and valuing it. I’m a history addict and a few years ago was commissioned to write a book (with a local BBC journalist) about Irish people in Oxford over the past 50 years. The feedback was all about how people were reminded of their heritage and how the good stuff might be re-created or learned from. I’m currently 40,000 words into another book that links my own antecedents to events and places in Irish history and to events and places on Teesside since the turn of the last century. I am certainly strongly driven to connect with and celebrate symbols from our past.

Have a look at Máire’s website


Update on Acklam Hall 31st July 2014

The road is taking shape now at Acklam Hall, but unfortunately the pond is looking neglected. The nesting birds are having trouble foraging for food as the water is so badly polluted. I have been told by the council that this is due to a lack of maintenance/dredging/poor drainage and a lack of tree management. The clearance of the pond will likely tie in with drainage work to the avenue of trees. The trees will be pruned and crowned but this is likely to occur later in the development. The council have said they will investigate the state of the pond is not due to the development. However, I think it is unacceptable that it could potentially be left to ruin for months. In the meantime the wildlife suffers and the public are unable to take their children to feed the ducks. I have also asked that ANY work to the land to the North (where the medieval village and 10m moat are located) should be overseen by an archaeologist.

As a group, we have recently met with Catherine Dewer from English Heritage who gave us lots of help and advice and answered a lot of questions as to why they went along with the plans for Acklam Hall (Despite objecting initially in 2010/2011). English Heritage have made recommendations about materials and design, sadly these recommendations have not been incorporated in the final designs. However, we have been assured that they will continue to be consulted about the plans and any future recommendations will be taken into account.

While English Heritage agreed that alternatives may have been possible if looked into by the council (Heritage Lottery Fund etc.) as development was the only proposal on the table, they believe it does secure a viable future for the hall. Our group think that the future of the hall is still questionable, but accept English Heritage’s response and appreciated a meeting with them. We also were given advice on how to further the Hands on Middlesbrough campaign to protect heritage and green space and look at ways the public can help shape how Middlesbrough continues to grow and develop.

On the 24th July we attended a public meeting at Outwood, chaired by Acklam Community Council. This meeting was about public access. Public access is something that our group flagged up at the protest on the 17th May 2014, when we learned that access was at the discretion of the developer. We have all fought hard and attended meetings with the council and the Mayor. Thankfully we have a positive result: Public access is being formalised for the front of the hall, around the pond and to the front of the hall via the road. Also along East wood and West wood.

At a meeting with the conservation officer, we learned that a blanket tree preservation order was to be placed on all remaining trees. Again, this is great news.

A lot has been achieved in a short space of time. We continue as a group to try and raise awareness about Acklam Hall and the continued threat to our green space and heritage sites. While we have nothing against housing development, we believe some places (especially those cherished by communities, listed buildings, buildings on a local list, or conservation areas) should be protected for future generations to enjoy. A more creative approach should be employed as to how we can use heritage sites as assets, our green space as a little piece of calm in an otherwise hectic world and overall look how we can develop and regenerate Middlesbrough for the better, for the people who live here.

Stop the East Middlesbrough Corridor

Since the 1960s, Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Councils have sought an alternative route into Middlesbrough town centre from the south, in order to alleviate congestion on the existing road traffic infrastructure – the East Middlesbrough Transport Corridor (also known as the Marton Motorway, the East Middlesbrough Bypass, or the East Middlesbrough Relief Road).

The proposed route starts at the A171 Swan’s Corner Roundabout at Nunthorpe, cuts north west across the field there to Rothesay Grove and skirts around Hambledon Hill, crossing the Esk Valley Railway Line and connecting to Stainton Way. It was also proposed that a northwards connection would follow the eastern side of the railway line from Stainton Way to the A174 Parkway, B1380 Ladgate Lane and A1085 Longlands Road.

The main objection to this has been the detrimental impact it would have on the Ormesby Hall Estate, which is owned by the National Trust and was badly done to by the creation of the Parkway 30 years ago. Other problems would be the lack of space to build a new junction with the Parkway, in between the full junction at the A172 Stokesley Road and the half-junction at the A171 Ormesby Bank, the need for a bridge over the railway line at Stainton Way and the rebuilding of the existing bridge across the Parkway.

By 2004, Middlesbrough Council decided that it only wanted the section from Swan’s Corner to the Parkway developed to relieve congestion on Dixons Bank and Ormesby Bank/Cargo Fleet Lane, this shortened version is now referred to as the East Cleveland Gateway. The National Trust, the Highways Agency, Network Rail and the Government Office for the North East all objected to the proposal, as did the residents of Ormesby and Nunthorpe. In 2005, a report for Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council’s Planning Officer concluded:

The recommended option is to rescind all proposals to construct a new road in the East Middlesbrough Transport Corridor. There is no realistic possibility of a route ever being constructed and, consequently, reserving the transport corridor creates unnecessary blight on many properties in the area. It is, therefore, recommended that all proposals should be rescinded and that the corridor should no longer be safeguarded for future transport development in the Local Development Framework.

However, after another joint investigation by the two neighbouring councils in 2008, Middlesbrough Council agreed with the recommendation from the resulting report that:

There is an absolute strategic need for a package of measures to reduce congestion and improve accessibility and it is important to identify and protect the East Middlesbrough Transport Corridor within the respective Local Development Frameworks of Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland councils.

Mayor Mallon said, “My position and that of this council is… that we want to see a bypass built as soon as possible. It is clear the project would assist the transport infrastructure and economic viability of the Middlesbrough area as a whole.” Prior to this, Mallon had even suggested that the local authority boundaries be redrawn to give Middlesbrough control over the whole of the corridor route. However, Redcar and Cleveland Council now plan to build 115 houses on the land at Swan’s Corner that had been earmarked for the corridor.

The Middlesbrough Local Plan from November 2013 makes a reference to “a new link road from Ladgate Lane to Longlands Road [that] has the potential to reduce congestion on Marton Road.” This is now being built as the Prissick Relief Road, running from Ladgate Lane, through all the new housing developments on the Prissick side of Marton Road, to James Cook University Hospital. The new £2.2m railway station at the hospital will also reduce traffic by providing “an alternative means of access to one of the area’s largest employment sites and other surrounding developments, which are located along a busy transport corridor.”

Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland Councils are now “involved in numerous talks via the Localism Act (Duty to Cooperate) regarding the impact of plans, and… are discussing transport solutions and benefits to both Councils.” This mainly involves the introduction of a Park and Ride scheme at Nunthorpe.

So now the councils are focussed on building houses on every bit of available land, the transport corridor has gone on the back burner. Middlesbrough Council have recently announced the removal of protection of the route, saying that it is not deliverable, due to the building of houses at Swan’s Corner. It seems that for the moment, the new road at Prissick, a park and ride scheme and improvements to rail links are all that the local councils are prepared to do to relieve traffic congestion.

However, the East Middlesbrough Transport Corridor is not dead. How long will it be, with all the new housing developments planned by both councils, about 11,000 new homes in total in the next 15 years, before the Corridor is again put forward as a solution to the town’s transport problems? There is still provision in Redcar & Cleveland’s plan to build new houses at Swan’s Corner for a route through to Stainton Way. Then all you would need would be a link from Stainton Way, via the Esk Valley Line route, to Ladgate Lane. This would then link with a Prissick Relief Road that was extended to the Longlands and the corridor would finally exist. I hope that for the sake for the Ormesby Hall Estate this never happens.